The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

by

Milan Kundera

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The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
According to Nietzsche, eternal return is “the heaviest of burdens,” which means that human life stands out in its weightlessness, but the narrator questions whether heaviness is truly negative compared to lightness. Life’s most meaningful aspects—like love—are heavy. Without these burdens, the narrator claims, one is “lighter than air.”
Kundera frequently debates the meaning of words and highlights how different words mean different things to different people. While the general consensus is that weight is negative, Kundera defines it differently and suggests that being too light is negative, which illustrates the innate ambiguity of words and language. 
Themes
Time, Happiness, and Eternal Return Theme Icon
Lightness, Weight, and Dichotomies  Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Parmenides, a Greek philosopher from the 5th century B.C.E, viewed the world in opposites, such as light and dark, fine and coarse, and being and nonbeing. He considered one half of such oppositions positive and the other half negative. For instance, Parmenides claimed that lightness is positive and weight negative, but the narrator isn’t so sure that Parmenides was correct. According to the narrator, the lightness/weight opposition is the most “mysterious” and “ambiguous” of all opposites. 
All oppositions are ambiguous in Kundera’s novel—he blends the feminine and the masculine, the weak and the strong, and even breeds of dogs—but he undermines the lightness/weight opposition most of all. Kundera notes that Parmenides thought lightness positive, but Kundera’s “light” characters are only able to find happiness in “heavy” relationships and situations. In this way, Kundera claims that heaviness isn’t entirely negative, which again suggests that language is unstable and meaning can never be fixed.  
Themes
Lightness, Weight, and Dichotomies  Theme Icon
Words and Language Theme Icon